This article describes the Canadian province. For other usages, see Quebec (disambiguation).
Quebec (pronounced "keh-BECK"; French: le Québec) is the largest province in Canada geographically, and the second most populous, after Ontario, with a population of 7,509,928 (Statistics Canada, 2004). French is primarily spoken in Quebec, making up the bulk of the Francophone population in North America. The capital is Quebec City and the largest city is Montréal. A resident of Quebec is called a Quebecer (also spelled Quebecker) or, in French, un(e) Québécois(e).
Main article: Geography of Quebec
The province, Canada's largest, occupies a vast territory (nearly three times the size of France), most of which is very sparsely populated. More than 90 per cent of Quebec's area lies within the Canadian Shield, a large part of which was historically referred to as the Ungava Region. The addition of the vast and virtually uninhabited northern region (which borders James Bay, Hudson Bay and Hudson Strait) in 1898 and 1912 by the Parliament of Canada created the massive Province of Quebec of today. Quebec is located in eastern Canada, bordered by Ontario and Hudson Bay to the west, Atlantic Canada to the east, the United States (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York) to the south and the Arctic Ocean to the north.
The province's three largest hydro-electric projects are built on La Grande Rivière. The extreme north of the province, now called Nunavik, is subarctic or arctic and is home to part of the Inuit nation.
The most populated region is the St. Lawrence River Valley in the south, where the capital, Quebec City, and the largest city, Montréal, are situated. North of Montréal are the Laurentians, a range of ancient mountains, and to the east are the Appalachian Mountains which extends into the Eastern Townships and Gaspésie regions. The Gaspé Peninsula juts into the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the east.
Main article: History of Quebec
The name Quebec, which comes from the Mi'kmaq word Gepèèg meaning "strait," originally meant the narrowing of the St. Lawrence River off what is currently Quebec City.
The first European explorer of what is now Quebec was Jacques Cartier, who planted a cross in the Gaspé in 1534 and sailed into the St. Lawrence River in 1535.
Quebec City was founded near the site of Stadacona, a village populated by Iroquoians when Jacques Cartier explored Canada. However, the village was no longer there when Samuel de Champlain established the Habitation de Quebec in 1608.
After 1627, King Louis XIII of France introduced the seigneurial system and forbade settlement in New France by anyone other than Roman Catholics, ensuring that welfare and education was kept firmly in the hands of the church. New France became a royal province in 1663 under Louis XIV and the intendant Jean Talon.
Great Britain acquired Canada by the Treaty of Paris (1763) when King Louis XV of France and his advisors chose to keep the territory of Guadeloupe for its valuable sugar crops instead of New France, which was viewed as a vast, frozen wasteland of little importance to the French colonial empire. By the British Royal Proclamation of 1763, Canada (part of New France) was renamed the Province of Quebec.
In 1774, the British Parliament passed the Quebec Act that helped ensure the survival of the French language and French culture in the region. The Act allowed Quebec to maintain the French Civil Code as its judicial system and sanctioned the freedom of religious choice, allowing the Roman Catholic Church to remain.
Quebec retained its seigneurial system and civil law code after France's giving of the territory to England. Owing to an influx of Loyalist refugees from the US Revolutionary War, the Constitutional Act of 1791 saw the colony divided in two at the Ottawa River; the western part became Upper Canada and changed to the British legal system. The eastern part was named Lower Canada.
After the Patriotes Rebellion of 1837, the British government merged the Canadas into one Province of Canada in 1841. However, the union proved contentious. In 1867 the Province of Canada, joining with the other British colonies of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia in the Canadian Confederation, was redivided into its two parts, under the names Ontario and Quebec.
The conservative government of Maurice Duplessis and his Union Nationale dominated Quebec politics from 1944 to 1960 with the support of the Catholic church. Pierre Trudeau and other intellectuals and liberals formed an intellectual opposition to Duplessis' repressive regime setting the groundwork for the Quiet Revolution under Jean Lesage's Liberals. The Quiet Revolution was a period of dramatic social and political change that saw the decline of the Roman Catholic Church's influence, the nationalization of Hydro Quebec and the emergence of a separatist movement under former Lesage minister René Lévesque.
During the 1960s a terrorist group known as the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ) launched a decade of bombings, robberies and attacks on government offices. Their activities culminated in events referred to as the October Crisis when James Cross, the British trade commissioner to Canada, was kidnapped along with Pierre Laporte, a provincial minister and Vice-Premier, who was murdered a few days later. A Federal government inquiry later revealed that under Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's demand, some RCMP agents infiltrated the group and pushed them towards terrorist actions in order to gain evidence of the groups willingness to commit terrorist acts.
In 1977 the newly elected Parti Québécois government of René Lévesque introduced the Charter of the French Language. Often known as "Bill 101", it defined French as the only official language of Quebec and is to this day still controversial and widely misunderstood inside and outside Quebec.
Lévesque put sovereignty-association before the voters in the 1980 Quebec referendum. Sixty per cent of the Quebec electorate voted against it.
On October 30, 1995, in a second referendum the vote for Quebec independence was rejected by a slim majority (50.6% NO to 49.4% YES).
Quebec map from the Atlas of Canada
Main article: Politics of Quebec
The Lieutenant Governor represents Queen Elizabeth II as head of state. The head of government is the Premier (called premier ministre in French) who leads the largest party in the unicameral National Assembly or Assemblée Nationale, from which the Council of Ministers is appointed.
Until 1968 the Quebec legislature was bicameral, consisting of the Legislative Council and the Legislative Assembly. In that year the Legislative Council was abolished, and the Legislative Assembly was renamed the National Assembly. Quebec was the last province to abolish its Legislative Council.
The Government of Quebec awards an order of merit called the National Order of Quebec. It is inspired in part by the French Legion of Honor. It is conferred upon men and women, either Quebec citizens or foreigners, for outstanding achievements.
Main article: Economy of Quebec
The St. Lawrence River Valley is a fertile agricultural region, producing dairy products, fruit, vegetables, maple sugar (Quebec is the world's largest producer), and livestock.
North of the St. Lawrence River Valley, the territory of Quebec is extremely rich in resources in its coniferous forests, lakes, and rivers—pulp and paper, lumber, and hydroelectricity are still some of the province's most important industries.
Main article: Culture of Quebec
The Québécois people, a people also found in small minorities of Canada and of the United States, consider Quebec their homeland. The Québécois are the largest population of French speakers in the Americas. Most French Canadians live in Quebec, though there are other concentrations of francophones throughout Canada with varying degrees of ties to Quebec. (The Acadians of the Canadian Maritimes consider themselves an entirely separate group.)
Quebec is at once a North American society and the main French-speaking society on the continent. Montréal, the vibrant cosmopolitan metropolis of Quebec, is the second largest francophone city after Paris. History made Quebec a place where cultures meet, where people from all over the world experience America, but from a little distance and through a different eye. Often described as a crossroads between Europe and America, Quebec is home to a people that has the privilege of being connected to the strong cultural currents of the United States, France, and the British Isles all at the same time.
Quebec is also home to 11 aboriginal cultures and that of a large Anglo-Quebecer minority of approximately 600,000 people.
Main article: Demographics of Quebec
Quebec's fertility rate is now among the lowest in Canada. At 1.48, it is well below the replacement fertility rate of 2.1. This contrasts with the fertility rate before 1960 which was among the highest of the industrialized countries.
Although Quebec represents only 24% of the population of Canada, the number of international adoptions in Quebec is the highest of all provinces of Canada. In 2001, 42% of international adoptions in Canada were carried out in Quebec.
Symbols and emblems
The motto of Quebec is Je me souviens (I remember), which is carved into the Parliament Building façade in Quebec City and is seen on the coat of arms and the licence plates.
The graphic emblem of Quebec is the fleur-de-lis, usually white on a blue background, as on the flag of Quebec (above), the Fleurdelisé;. As indicated on the government of Quebec's Web site, the flag recalls the Royal banner said to have accompanied the army of General Montcalm, Marquis de Saint-Véran during the victorious battle of Carillon in 1758.
The floral emblem of Quebec is the blue flag iris (Iris versicolor). It was formerly the Madonna lily, to recall the fleur-de-lis, but has been changed to the iris which is native to Quebec.
The avian emblem of Quebec is the snowy owl.
The patron saint of French Canada is John the Baptist. La Saint-Jean-Baptiste, June 24, is Quebec's national day, and is officially called the Fête nationale du Québec since 1977. The song "Gens du Pays" by Gilles Vigneault is often regarded as Quebec's unofficial anthem.
Quebec is sometimes referred to as "La Belle Province" which means "The Beautiful Province". Until the late 1970s, this phrase was displayed on Quebec licence plates. It has since been replaced by the province's official motto: "Je me souviens" which means "I remember".
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